In an indication that some things cannot change in the complex ties between neighbours, the Pakistan high commissioner in New Delhi Abdul Basit has invited Hurriyat leaders for consultations ahead of the India-Pakistan foreign secretary-level meeting in Islamabad on August 25.
There was no reaction from the external affairs ministry as the invitation to the separatists leaders is normal practice by Pakistan before any major diplomatic event. However, the meet assumes significance as Jammu and Kashmir is scheduled to hold assembly elections in November.
Hurriyat conference chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq has been invited by the Pakistan envoy to come to New Delhi on August 19.
The chairman of the hardline faction of the Hurriyat, Syed Ali Shah Geelani, and senior separatist leader Shabir Ahmad Shah, who floated the third faction of the amalgam last year, have also been invited.
Read: How can Pakistan envoy talk to separatists, asks Congress
Hitting out at the Centre for allowing the envoy to meet Hurriyat leaders ahead of foreign secretary Sujatha Singh's visit to Islamabad, Congress leader Manish Tewari said it was a sign of lack of diplomacy, "Where has the diplomacy gone? is this government going to endorse the behaviour of Pakistan".
Government sources said it was usual for visiting Pakistan leaders and its envoy to meet the hardline separatists especially ahead of key talks. Pakistan's foreign and national security adviser Sartaz Aziz met them during his visit here last November.
The only one to go against the grain was PM Nawaz Sharif who did not meet Hurriyat leaders when he was in New Delhi for PM Modi's swearing in.
Former external affairs minister Salman Khurshid accused the government of double standards and said the decision to hold talks with Pakistan was not in sync with BJP's policy – when it was in the opposition -- of "talks and terror cannot go hand in hand".
Last week, Rajya Sabbha MP Ram Jethmalani was in Kashmir to meet separatist leaders and had told them he would apprise PM Modi of his talks.
Also read: Time has come to work on Musharraf’s formula: Jethmalani